The WasteWatcher: The Staff Blog of Citizens Against Government Waste

Abstinence of Logic

The WasteWatcher is the staff blog of Citizens Against Government Waste (CAGW) and the Council for Citizens Against Government Waste (CCAGW). For questions, contact blog@cagw.org.


Abstinence education is not just for teenagers anymore.

In a strange shift in guidelines for grant awards, the government’s official message of no sex prior to marriage will be directed at single individuals up to 29 years old.  Hypothetically, this means a recently divorced man or woman weeks shy of their 30th birthday is now a target for taxpayer-funded, abstinence-only education.  This will be official policy starting in fiscal year 2007. 

The new policy may be a case of trying to lock the barn door after the horses have escaped.  According to the National Center for Health Statistics, more than 90 percent of adults aged 20 to 29 are sexually active.  Looking at a statistic like that, it is easy to question the purpose of teaching abstinence to an age group of which nine out of ten individuals has already failed to abstain.  This shift in policy is based more on political ideology then a desire to maintain a healthy population.

According to an October 31, 2006 article in USA Today, 46 states last year applied to the Department of Health and Human Services for more than $50 million in federal abstinence-only education money.  A similar amount is proposed for fiscal 2007.  One consequence of the new policy is that the original focus group – preteens and teens – will now receive less attention, thwarting the original intent of the program.

Additionally, not everyone is convinced that abstinence-only education actually works.    According to the study, Explaining Recent Declines in Adolescent Pregnancy in the United States: The Contribution of Abstinence and Improved Contraceptive Use, as reported in The New York Daily News on December 1, 2006, there has recently been a 38 percent drop in pregnancies in girls between 15 and 19.  The study found that 86 percent of this decline was attributable to improved contraception use, while only 14 percent was due to reduced sexual activity.

Meanwhile, ABC News Online reported that a majority of Americans disapprove of abstinence-only education.  A survey of 1,110 adults found that 82 percent support programs that highlight abstinence as well as other forms of avoiding pregnancy and sexually transmitted diseases.  The survey also found that half of Americans were in disagreement with abstinence-only education.

While the government will continue funding abstinence-only education regardless of public opinion, it makes no sense to further exacerbate the disapproval of this program by expanding it to cover a group of individuals for whom it serves no useful purpose.

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